Review: Monkey 47 Gin

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Monkey 47 Gin
Monkey 47 Gin

Any time Sidney Frank brings on a new product, it’s significant – after all, this is the same company who made Grey Goose Vodka into the sensation it is and has helped continue to make Jaegermeister into the iron clad warship of a spirit that it is. The big question is, why in the world did they pick up Monkey 74 Gin? Even by Sidney Frank standards, Monkey 47 is an oddball pick. This German gin is an obscure Schwarzwald Dry Gin, made from a pure molasses base spirit with a botanical mix that includes many local German elements which are quite foreign to US consumers. With so many gins on the market, craft and commercially produced, what compelled Sidney Frank to pick up this one?

Monkey 47 Gin (47% ABV / 94 proof,  $44.99 per 375 ml) actually gets its name from the fact that it uses a whopping 47 botanicals, not because it’s released at 47% (although we found using the namesake ABV was cute).  From the first nosing, it’s clear that this is distinctly different from other gins on the market. Juniper can often read like pine tree on the nose, and here it’s supported by so many different evergreen notes that it smells like it’s distilled from a dense forest. There’s also a deep lemon citrus note, but it’s more like lemon balm or lemon myrtle than actual lemon. Beyond the pine and lemon there’s a chamomile floral note which also reads slightly bitter. All this is rounded out by lingonberry, which reads more sour and bitter than sweet. It’s hard to say that the nose of Monkey 47 is inviting, but there is a tremendous amount going on and an intense amount of complexity.

The entry of Monkey 47 Gin is softer than we’d expect, with light citrus and pine, but it’s only a short reprieve before the sheer force of this gin hits. The midpalate is a bombastic symphony of flavor with twelve different shades of pine, moss, birch, sage, cardamom, lemon balm, grains of paradise, black pepper, white pepper, ginger, sour lingonberry, and a dash of hot peppers. It’s too much, just way too much, and leaves you feeling like you’ve been slapped across the face with fir tree. At the end of the midpalate things get extremely spicy along with some pronounced heat from the underlining base spirit. This leads to a very long and slightly dry finish which captures the lemon balm, pine, cardamom, and pepper spice from the midpalate. The finish is actually quite solid and offers a much needed respite from the midpalate.

At this proof and with this intensity of flavor in the midpalate, Monkey 47 Gin demands to be mixed with, but the price point (nearly $100 per 750ml) makes it extremely difficult to justify in a cocktail. Unfortunately, Monkey 47 performed horribly in a gin and tonic. We mixed with with Fever Tree Indian Tonic and the result was so bitter and unpalatable that it was undrinkable. While it’s nice to see more entries in the super or ultra-premium space, we just don’t get why Sidney Frank picked Monkey 47 Gin and how exactly they think they’ll be able to succeed with it in the American market. Our only guess is that a very small number of craft bartenders will revel in being able to transform such a brutally assaultive gin into a drink that’s approachable and beautiful. While there’s no shortage of flavor notes to pull from in Monkey 47 Gin, getting a drink that is even remotely balanced would be an extreme challenge. Even if Monkey 47 were spectacular, which it isn’t, there’s just no getting past the price. Very few gins can pull off this kind of price tag and most of them are adjuncts to other brands, like Nolet’s Reserve, which serve to add premium luster to their entry level offerings. It’s impossible to see Monkey 47 Gin getting much traction and it certainly doesn’t have the makings of another Sidney Frank hit.

  • Your review almost scared me off, but I was intrigued and tried Monkey 47 neat with a couple of friends. We all enjoyed it and agreed that it comes off more as a boozy digestif rather than something which demands to be mixed with. It’s much more complex than “getting slapped across the face with a fir tree” gives credit. There’s lots of lingonberry and orange sweetness up front along with that pepper and the finish of more mysterious botanicals. I’d put it somewhere between orange Curacao, New American gin, and green Chartreuse. We went back for seconds and thirds.

    • $100 a 750? The things you compare it to are all 1/2 that price.

      • If price is the main factor, I completely agree this stuff is pricey, even overpriced. I may never buy it again because it’s prohibitively expensive. Yet, it’s unique in its flavor profile. So, while there may be alternatives, there’s nothing quite like it. The article mentions factors other than price. I though readers might appreciate a viewpoint from someone who enjoyed the taste of this particular product. Cheers.

        • Oh price isn’t the main factor, but it’s an important consideration. I’d never argue with what someone enjoys but we found it to be extremely out of balance and way to assertive (thus the smack across the face with a tree limb analogy).

          • Price is definitely a consideration. I have to say, the bottle entered my shopping cart and was put back on the shelf a couple of times before I said, screw it, let’s try this super-duper premium spirit (I have wine buddies who do worse). I’m a gin lover and I’m glad I tried it. Yet, I wish it were more affordable. Even if the taste isn’t for everyone, it’s an adventurous concoction, and I hope more like this follow … perhaps at a more affordable price point Thanks for the review and the conversation.

  • Michael

    Best gin ever. Monkey 47 is amazing.

    • Shizuppy

      I agree. Only a lunatic would mix this with anything, it would be like putting Cristal or Krug Grand Cuvee in a mimosa.
      This is a drink you sip slowly out of a tiny ornate glass. One glass is enough for an evening. It’s truly an experience. There is no mixer that will improve upon the flavor. To think otherwise is insane.

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  • Zac

    I drink this almost daily in a Tom Collins/Gin sour. Its absolutely heavenly! Only one place in town carries it and its $18/pour, but I absolutely love it!

  • Ann Young

    I was introduced to this in Germany last year. Boy am I sorry because I now enjoy this three nights a week with ice and tonic. I make the old budget work because quality, not quantity is where it’s at. There’s a subtle line between just right, where the flavors pop vs. too much and they disappear.
    I’m hard pressed to find any gin out there that can compare.

  • John Ladasky

    I just had my first taste of Monkey 47 tonight, neat and cold. It was a fine sipping aperitif. My palate said juniper up front, but with a lot more body than most gins, and I got a minty finish. It was not exactly categorizable as gin in my mind, but it was quite enjoyable.

    My brother would agree with the writer’s opinion regarding cocktails, however. He said that everything he has tried to mix using Monkey 47 diminishes it. Better to drink it straight.

  • Jeffrey Salmon

    Have just read your review and, respectfully, you had either tried and reviewed Monkey 47 after you’d brushed your teeth (with ammonia) or you had just had a stinking argument with your partner. As other comments have suggested, they could have easily been put off from trying this gin after reading your sad words. I know after checking all the other reviews on the net that I am certainly not in a class of one when I say out loud and proud this is the greatest gun I have ever tasted ( and I’ve been through an awful lot of them) Undoubtedly it would appear that your comments very much do place you in that class of one! The majority of your reviews are sensible and I agree with them. Regretfully this time you’ve got it badly wrong. As for it and not mixing very well with Fever Tree tonic, again…. WRONG!